16 Makeup Tips for Gorgeous Skin

Woman with clear skin with eyes closed

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People tell me all the time I have a great complexion, which takes me by surprise because for years I was convinced I had ruddy skin. But thanks to my gig as a beauty editor, I've learned how to turn my reddened, sometimes ashy appearance into skin that people actually compliment. Here are my secrets.  

Get Skin in Tip-Top Shape

The number one rule I've learned as a beauty editor is the healthier your skin, the less makeup you'll require. If you properly cleanse, exfoliate, and hydrate skin, you won't need much concealer or foundation.

Always Slather on Primer or Moisturizer before Foundation

If you apply a primer to your face first, your concealer and foundation will glide on smoothly. Moisturizer works, too, just not as well. Primers act like spackle: They moisturize, plump the skin and fill in any fine lines, pores, and wrinkles, so your foundation won't settle into them.

At first, I was skeptical, but then a makeup artist talked me into the beauty editor's all-time favorite foundation primer ($39) from Laura Mercier. Cha-ching! The primer is oil-free, a bonus for my oily skin. The trick is to apply foundation within a minute of the primer or moisturizer application so that it doesn't soak into the skin completely.

Apply Concealer Before Foundation

Once you apply concealer, you won't need as much foundation, according to makeup artist Bobbi Brown. Use concealer under eyes, along the nose, and on the chin.

When you do apply concealer, pay special attention to the red areas around the nose. Dot concealer on these areas and then step back and look at how much brighter your face is.

Avoid Full Foundation Coverage

Few people need to apply foundation all over the face—a look I lovingly call "cake face." Apply where you have uneven skin tone (usually along your nose). In wintertime, if your cheeks tend to get ruddy, apply there as well. For more sheer, natural coverage, consider a tinted moisturizer, which goes on much lighter than typical foundations.

Blend Foundation Correctly

If you do want more coverage, use a foundation brush (more on this below) and always start in the center of your face, blending outward. Pay special attention to the neck, otherwise, people will see the line where you stopped, giving you a "mask face." (Full disclosure: I went around with mask face my entire sophomore year of high school).

Pick the Proper Color and Formula for Your Skin

Choose a color that's as close to your natural skin tone as possible. Never try to darken your complexion with foundation (it will look very obvious). If a sun-kissed look is what you're after, use a bronzer instead. Since skin tone can vary depending on the time of year, consider two shades of foundation: one for summer when skin is naturally darker, and one for winter when skin is lighter. Mix them together during spring and fall for a complete palette.

For oily skin, go for a matte foundation. Dry skin? Try a hydrating formula. One last tip: It's a myth to test foundation colors on the back of your hand. The best spot is actually along your jawline, according to Allure's Linda Wells, in her book, Confessions of a Beauty Editor.

Use a Sponge, a Brush or Your Fingers

There's really no right or wrong way to apply foundation. Any of the three methods below works fine, so it's all about preference.

  • A foundation brush: Some makeup artists prefer foundation brushes to apply foundation (I loved Trish McEvoy's foundation brush ($54)—until I lost it). A brush allows you to get into all the nooks, crannies, and pores on your face. To do this, put a glob of foundation or tinted moisturizer on the back of your hand and dab with a foundation brush, then apply to face.
  • Your fingers: Other makeup artists believe using your fingers warm up the foundation, which helps it blend into your skin better.
  • A sponge: I use a sponge when applying tinted moisturizer or foundation. I find the coverage is smooth and goes on perfect and I don't muck up my fingers.

Don't Throw Out Wrong-Toned Foundations and Concealers

Finding the right color foundation and concealer can be daunting, which is why I suggest you get professional help at Sephora or a makeup counter at a department store. This way you can try before you buy. But if you do have a few foundations and concealers that are just a bit off, do like the makeup artists and blend a couple of mismatched colors for the perfect one.

How to Conceal Dark Under-Eye Circles

According to makeup artist Anthea King in InStyle, you want to neutralize dark under-eye circles with peach- or yellow-toned concealers. Dab concealer on the inner corner of the eye by tapping it into place (never run a concealer on like you would sunscreen or foundation).

Invest in Great Highlighters and Watch Your Skin "Glow From Within"

My best skincare secret is illuminating creams and products. I love the way highlighters can minimize your worst features while enhancing others. There's simply no better way to appear as if your skin is glowing from within than with a luminizing cream.

Apply above your brows on the browbone, on tops of the cheeks and down the center of the nose for best results. A makeup artist's favorite (and mine, too) is Yves Saint Laurent Touche Éclat concealer ($38). Makeup artist Jo Strettel swears by this in Elle because it's easy to use: You simply paint it on your face. I swear by it, as well, and have been using it every week for years.

Don't Be Afraid of Bronzers

Nothing warms the face more than a bronzer. Make sure to use a big makeup brush and a light touch. Apply to all the spots where the sun hits: Forehead, cheeks, and nose. For more "pop," (read: instant cheekbones) dot a creamy blush along your cheekbone (rather than apply blush into the apples of your cheeks), then blend in well.

Natural Oils Are Not Bad

While most of us with oily skin tend to mattify it to the max, we shouldn't be afraid of skin's natural oils. Lately, those whose faces bear some sheen have been all the rage.

If you have oily skin, apply an oil-free primer before your foundation to keep makeup in place, then powder only the nose and chin. Keep a pack of blotting tissues in your purse to blot excessive oils.

Facial Mist Is a God-Send

After you apply makeup, spray facial mist to get the perfect dewy non-cake face. I'm into Evian Natural Mineral Water Facial Spray ($14) at the moment. You can also apply a pea-sized dot of moisturizer on a sponge and lightly apply it to your forehead and cheeks.

Get Rid of the "Ashen" Look

If you have dark skin, you may notice your skin can get ashy. Combat it with a cream highlighter. Apply concealer to upper corners of lips where skin tends to be darker.

Tone Down Ruddy Skin

If you have ruddy (red) skin, tone it down with a yellow- or green-based foundation. Pink-based foundations and tinted moisturizers will only worsen your red complexion. Also, try yellow-based blushes, such as apricot, instead of a pink tone.

Yes, Everyone Can Wear Blush

Since my skin is perpetually flushed, I thought I never needed blush. The makeup artist at Bobbi Brown agreed until she applied a tinted moisturizer. The moisturizer toned down my ruddiness enough that she needed to add a blush, which subsequently gave me a healthy color.

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